What is a healthy diet?

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” —François de la Rochefoucauld

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Abhyanga: Luxurious Self-Massage

The hot water opens the pores in the skin and lets the oil seep deeply into your tissues for repair and rejuvenation. This is not a cetyl-alcohol-filled-lotion application where it just stays on the surface of your skin and you wonder why you are always still dry. This is a legitimate, skin softening, health improving practice.

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Ayurveda Electrolytes: It's Summer, Rehydrate!!!

We all know the facts, our bodies are made of 80% water, we can survive longer without food than we can without water, e.t.c. There is no denying it, water makes us feel better by cooling us down in the heat, replenishes some of what we are losing when we exert ourselves, and it's really nice to swim around in.

However, we also now know that water is not everything we lose when we void our bodily fluids. These minerals are vital to keeping our bodies cool and our 'pitta' or fire element in check. If we let the fire burn too hot we will not only persistently be dehydrated but our skin, bladder, kidney, digestive, and heart health will suffer. If you experience UTI's, heart palpitations, burning sensations such as heartburn, rashes, or have loose bowels one culprit could be not enough of the RIGHT hydration.

Ayurveda has a host of natural remedies so that when you lose electrolytes such as chloride, potassium, and sodium you can replenish quickly and effectively!

  • Pomegranate juice with a pinch of cardamom
  • Coconut water
  • A squeeze of lime in room temperature water
  • First cup of water in the morning is slightly warm with a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of himalayan sea salt
  • Steep mint leaves in water, add maple syrup, lime juice, and a pinch of himalayan sea salt
  • Cucumber juice or steeped in water and lemon/lime juice with a little coconut sugar.
  • Cilantro juice! Juice it with cucumbers, celery, and apple. If that doesn't cool you down, I don't know what will.
  • Cooled milk: warm the milk on the stove with cardamom, rose water, and a little maple syrup/coconut sugar. Let it cool to about room temp and drink.

Don't use ice in your drinks! Very cold liquid makes it very difficult for your body to absorb. If you use ice and pee a lot or feel you can never get enough water try just taking out the ice and see what a difference that makes!

Photo by Alan Carrillo on Unsplash

Anxiety: Start With Your Food

Through Ayurveda's perspective all aspects of life are made of different qualities. Foods, drinks, weather, places, people, relationships, experiences, even feelings. These qualities could be hot or cold, dry or moist, rough or smooth, cloudy or clear e.t.c. These qualities help us understand how to balance our imbalances, as like will increase like and opposites are very attractive here.

Take for example the Vata dosha. The Vata dosha is our constitution made of air and ether elements, so naturally as air is, the qualities that make up these types of foods, drinks, feelings, people, and experiences are as follows: light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear.

Now let us apply those qualities to our feeling of anxiety. When we experience anxiety it could show up as a whole host of physical ailments. Some of which are heart palpitations, inability to breathe, racing frantic mind, fear, uneasiness, insomina, not being able to sit still, dry mouth, nausea, tense muscles, dizziness, or cold/sweaty/numb/tingling hands or feet. Almost each and every one of these sypmtoms have qualities of air: light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear.

So if one was to have an anxiety attack, which action do you think would help calm the anxiety: quickly pacing around your room breathing shallow wringing your hands, or sitting down in a quiet place with your eyes closed focusing only on breathing slowly? Hard to do at the time of an anxiety attack but we both understand that similar actions to air or Vata will only increase the problem.

The causes of anxiety can be many different things but the root of it almost always points to a traumatic event-- whether getting in a car accident or being in an abusive relationship. Each and every one of these types of experiences rock our nervous system and unfortunately we are not trained in how to nourish our nervous system after the event or series of events. Therefore, anxiety can slowly creep into our lives and never leave, especially if we live a busy//crazy//hectic//stressfull//pressure-filled life.

Below is a list of foods, drinks, and actions I hope are helpful in understanding how your diet and lifestyle may be perpetuating your struggle with anxiety.

Opposite qualities of Vata: heavy, warm, smooth, nourishing, substantive, oily, and stabilizing.

Foods that cause anxiety:

Generally frozen/dry/raw/ vegetables, artichoke, black olives, bitter gourd, bitter melon, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, celery (fully cooked is fine), dandelion greens, kale, lettuce, watercress, sprouts, cabbage, green beans, peas, ANY bean besides red lentils and tofu/tempeh products, hummus, white potatoes, raw foods, raw veggies, salads, chips, popcorn, rice cakes, dry granola, dried fruits, persimmons, pomegranates, raw apples and pears… do you see a trend of cold, dry, and rough/cruciferous?

Drinks that cause anxiety:

Alcohol, caffeine, bitter teas such as dandelion, astringent teas such as hibiscus, jasmine, nettles, mint teas, rosehips, or passion flower, frozen smoothies, any drink with ice in it or very cold drinks

Actions that cause anxiety:

Running, travelling, driving, jumping, frantic/hectic movements, too much screen time, standing or talking while eating, excess stimulation-- especially noise like loud music or excited music, always having ear buds in, constatntly talking on the phone, listening to audiobooks while driving/in motion.

Foods to counteract anxiety:

Making sure your food is warm, cooked, well spiced, and well oiled; any fresh raw fruit besides apples and pears (apples and pears you stew with a little ghee/coconut oil and cinnamon), pumpkin, sweet potatoes, soaked nuts, avocado, asparagus, cucumber, okra, squashes, mushrooms, lean meats, beets, carrots, corn, garlic, onions, oils, grains that are spiced and oiled well, goat dairy... see a trend of moist and heavier?

Drinks and teas to counteract anxiety:

Lavender, chamomile, lemongrass, fennel tea, Tulsi-brahmi tea, aloe vera juice, coconut milk, coconut water, grape juice, lemonade or limeade, licorice tea, warm spiced and sweetened milk drinks.

Actions to counteract anxiety:

Walking not running, yoga that DOES NOT require you to be in a new pose every 30 seconds (think ashtanga, hatha, iyengar, or well thought out vinyasa sequence), choose calming meditative music at some point in the day if you listen to a lot of music, meditation or find at least once in your day to sit in silence for 10 minutes with just yourself no distractions, try moving slower from place to place or cut out unnecessary rush, sitting down to enjoy each meal and chew thoroughly, cutting out screens for at least an hour before bed, journaling, self-massage or abhyanga... take a minute to figure out in your day how you can cut down stimulation and move a little slower.

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

Chamomile

"Chamomile is veritably one of the best herbs for cooling excess heat and inflammation associated with high pitta.” Annie McIntyre

Chamomile is one of my favorite herbs to use in my practice. Not only is it the cutest little flower, I love its ability to cover such a wide variety of ailments and be mild enough to help those with the most sensitive systems. Chamomile is an age-old medicinal herb known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome but also spans over 26 different countries in medicinal use.

Chamomile's volatile oils and flavanoids are what give this powerful daisy-family flower healing properties. Below are some main uses and Ayurvedic or herbal remedies safe for anyone to adopt in their routine (unless of course you are allergic to chamomile):

  • Analgesic (vedanasthapana): relieves pain whether it be muscle, nerve, menstrual, e.t.c.
  • Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic
  • Anti-inflammatory (shothahara): reduces inflammation across the board
  • Antihistamine (shothahara): acts as a benadryl for allergic reactions
  • Antioxidant: like vitamin C and E it reduces the oxidation of cells to help combat cancerous free radicals in your body
  • Antispasmodic (shulaprashamana): relieves muscle tension and muscle spasms
  • Carminative (vāta anuloman): mildly laxative without drying the colon
  • Regulates menstruation (artavashamana): an herb women can use for any menstrual ailment
  • Diaphoretic (svedajanana): induces perspiration, helps reduce swelling and edema
  • Digestive (pachan) and stomachic: calms overheated digestion but slightly bitter taste stimulates digestion producing appetite
  • Febrifuge (jwaraghna): helps regulate a fever
  • Diuretic (mutrala): cleansing for the urinary system
  • Nervine (medhya) & sedative (nidrajanana): sedative and calms nerves
  • Strengthening tonic (balya): as it calms all systems it stregthens and revitalizes
  • Vulnerary (ropana): heals wounds

"In moderate amounts it is good for all constitutions, and it is a particularly good beverage for Pitta. It helps relieve bilious, digestive headaches, relieves congestion of the blood and promotes menstruation. It is a sattvic herb that is very balancing to the emotions... For most medical purposes its action is mild and serves as a harmonizing adjunct." -- Yoga of Herbs, by David Frawley and Vasant Lad

Remedies:

As a tea:

→ A little fresh ginger prepared with the tea makes chamomile a completely balanced beverage and counters any emetic effect it might have.

→ Drink tea a half hour after meals to aid in digestion.

→ Drink tea first thing in the morning to help pregnant mama's with morning sickness.

→ Use in a takrum or Ayurvedic digestive yogurt drink to aid digestion, increase appetite, lose weight, remove bloating and flatulence, as well as aid in bowel movement.

→ Lemon/lime and chamomile liquefy stagnant lymph, flush heaviness and stiffness out of the muscles, and reduce swelling/edema in the body. This is extra helpful for those that live in more humid climates or during the wet seasons of later winter/spring time. Add a little local raw honey to increase these benefits!

→ To help with sleeplessness. For chronic insomnia you will need to use in conjunction with stronger herbs like valerian or catnip. It IS perfect however, to calm nerves during a stressful day or bring down the heat a notch after a bout of irritation and anger.

→ Heal mouth sores and prevent gum disease. A chamomile mouthwash may help soothe mouth inflammations and keep gums healthy. Make some tea and swish around mouth for a few minutes before drinking!

→ Reduce menstrual cramps. Chamomiles believed ability to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus helps ease the discomfort of menstrual cramping.

→ Treat diverticular disease, irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints. Chamomile's reported anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions relax the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestine. The herb may therefore help to relieve nausea, heartburn, and stress-related flatulence. It may also be useful in the treatment of diverticular disorders and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's disease. (2)

Eyes & Skin

→ Soothe skin rashes (including eczema), minor burns and sunburn. Used as a lotion or added in oil form to a cool bath, chamomile may ease the itching of eczema and other rashes and reduces skin inflammation. (2)

→ It may also speed healing and prevent bacterial infection. Place steeped teabags or cooled loose tea in a compress over cleaned wounds, scrapes, or burns.

→ Place cooled tea bags over your eyes after making tea to treat eye inflammation caused by allergies, air pollutants, or even conjunctivitis.

References:

  1. Yoga of Herbs by David Frawley
  2. https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-chamomile.html
  3. Photo by ORNELLA BINNI on Unsplash